I understand that some may view my comments as inappropriate given my position as a Penn State trustee. However, I feel so strongly about this issue that I believe I have a responsibility and a moral obligation to comment on Cory Giger's recent column regarding the position of Penn State athletic director.
First, I do not believe Dave Joyner deserves the job on a permanent basis as was suggested by Giger. In fact, I do not believe Dave Joyner should have ever been placed in the role of acting athletic director. And I am not the only one.
Auditor General Jack Wagner's recently issued special report, called "Recommendations for Governance Reform at The Pennsylvania State University," details the issue of insiders moving back and forth between the Board of Trustees and university staff.
One year ago, the Penn State board allowed Joyner, then a trustee, to seamlessly and quietly move into the lucrative position of acting athletic director, thus creating a cast of influential insiders with the potential to impair objective and independent thinking. The perception of impropriety was very real, for good reason. Openness and transparency be damned.
Second, at the time Tim Curley was placed on administrative leave, then Associate Athletic Director Mark Sherburne was named the acting athletic director. A seasoned administrator, Sherburne served as acting athletic director for only 10 days before being suddenly and questionably replaced by Joyner.
A 21-year employee of the university, Sherburne was widely respected by coaches and athletic department staff, in addition to university administrators with whom he had worked his entire career. Joyner's controversial firing of Sherburne in April of this year led many to question his motives, again with good reason.
Third, on November 17, 2011, NCAA President Mark Emmert sent Penn State President Rod Erickson a three-page letter in which he asked four specific questions. A Penn State staff member contacted Joyner in December of 2011 recommending the immediate hiring of special counsel for this NCAA matter, in order to protect the best interests of Penn State. The staff member was told that this was unnecessary and the matter was under control.
Penn State did not engage such counsel until July 11, 2012. Consequently, we were needlessly caught flat-footed, unprepared to address the unprecedented sanctions imposed by the NCAA. Furthermore, the recent additions of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten were made without any member of Penn State's administration, including athletics and the Board of Trustees, knowledge of the financial impact to Penn State.
Fourth, the hiring of an athletic director should not be based on the successful hiring of one coach, even if that coach is Bill O'Brien. Penn State athletics encompasses so much more than 31 varsity sports. The athletic director is responsible for more than 300 staff and 800 student-athletes, in addition to all club sports and branch campus athletics. The operating budget exceeds $118 million.
Finally, when the time for a permanent replacement to Tim Curley arrives, if there is a serious commitment to eschewing Penn State's historically insular leadership culture, we should all expect - and, in fact demand - that the Board of Trustees take note of the specific recommendation in the Freeh Report to "conduct national searches for candidates for key positions, including head coaches and Associate Athletic Director[s] and above."
Tim Curley's dynamic and passionate leadership has been the driving force behind the Nittany Lions' tremendous level of athletic and academic achievement since his hiring in 1993. Great care, attention and expertise must be invested in a transparent and comprehensive process to ensure that standard of excellence is solidly in place for Penn State's next generation of student-athletes and fans.
Anthony P. Lubrano
Sanctions still hard to swallow
As the scales of justice continue to evolve and prosecute those responsible for the cover-up of Sandusky's sexual abuse at PSU, I am having a real problem accepting the actions of the NCAA toward PSU.
In my humble opinion, it makes absolutely no sense to punish future generations of PSU football players.
The fines, reduction of scholarships and elimination of bowl bids only serve to punish the future of players who are putting themselves at risk of injury every game.
Every football coach in the country should be voicing their displeasure for such punitive action of future generations due to actions of a despicable group of individuals who were at the helm.
As far as I'm concerned, the buck stops with Graham Spanier, followed by Tim Curley and Gary Schultz and other staff who have yet to be indicted.
I'm hoping that these individuals are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and if they are found guilty, the Board of Trustees should request reimbursement of all legal fees to PSU and the surrender of their pensions as additional punishment for their dereliction of duty.
It's pretty hard to fix stupid, but I would urge each of you to take up your pen or email and let the NCAA know that punishing the future and tainting the reputation of an excellent university is just plain dumb.
Frank M. Fedeli
Seniors go out in style
I'm so happy for Penn State's seniors.
It was wonderful to send them off with a win against a tough Wisconsin team. I can't help but wonder if kids such as Anthony Fera (who is somewhat of an exception due to the health of his mom), Justin Brown and Silas Redd are thinking twice about their decisions after seeing what their friends and former teammates have accomplished this year.
If Bill O'Brien leaves PSU for the NFL, I'll understand. A guy doesn't get a lot of chances to coach an NFL team or to get paid an NFL salary. So I'll understand, but I won't forgive him.
O'Brien is now the reason for potential recruits to come to PSU. O'Brien has shown that he can win, that he can take a walk-on from Scranton and make him one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten, and that he can do that stuff with a program that is reeling.
If O'Brien walks, the appeal of PSU takes a huge hit for the duration of the sanctions. I hope he will show the sort of character that his players displayed, and that he will stay with PSU at least until the sanctions are done.
I'm sad that PSU won't get the chance to play in the Outback Bowl or the Capital One Bowl or whichever bowl they would have landed in under different circumstances.
But I won't allow that to diminish the admiration that I feel for the team this year.
Realignment feels wrong
There is something fundamentally wrong with the academic/athletic relationship when a school is willing to pay $50 million (sounds like a powerball lottery payoff) to leave one league and join another - assuming reports of the ACC exit fee for Maryland are accurate.
It will take a long time to make up the financial difference between staying in the ACC and paying to move to the Big Ten (now 14).
And how does Maryland replace North Carolina, Duke, N.C. State, Virginia and Clemson on their basketball schedule. With home-home vs. the Nits?
The Rutgers situation is a bit different. After all, the wise guys who run the Big East thought it was a great idea to add Boise State and San Diego State to the conference. Both are natural rivals for Temple.
I would love to get the frequent-flyer miles San Diego State accumulates.
I cannot remember a team leaving the Big Ten, but with the league having added three teams from other conferences in the past few years, they should not be surprised if others raid them.
Love the amateurism that is college athletics.
Ficken comeback impressive
It's probably not polite or even appropriate to say "I told you so."
However, earlier in the year, I wrote with my concern about Penn State coach Bill O'Brien not using placekicker Sam Ficken after the Virginia game. I even commented that he may need him some time later in the year.
Now, to his credit, O'Brien did go back to Ficken, and he did well when he did. You sure have to feel good for that kid finishing the year with a field goal that was the difference in the Wisconsin game.
It turned out to be quite a year for Penn State and perhaps one of the most entertaining in Penn State history.
'O'Brien made it happen'
I enjoyed Neil Rudel's Nov. 25 recap for a great PSU team and coach titled "O'Brien caps great debut with victory."
It was extremely well-written and captured the emotion of this year's team and coach.
How fitting that Coach O'Brien received Big Ten Coach of the Year. At one time, I was hoping Urban Meyer would coach at PSU. Although his Ohio State team had no losses, it's obvious that the 8-4 PSU outcome was way beyond expected in this crazy year.
Although I don't want to downplay the team's efforts, O'Brien made it happen. I'm so relieved to learn he will be coming back next year. I am concerned now about the recruiting process, and if the best undergraduate players will stay with the PSU team next fall.
But miracles do happen - as witnessed by this year's team.